Five to eight pairs should ideally be introduced to your house at the same time. All of the birds are swarming together in a 4X4X8 (minimum size) flight with plenty of perches. Because they are in a new environment, no one bird has established supremacy. About two weeks after flocking, the birds are vetted. They will be together for at least another two weeks. (Do not be deceived by the hen when all the birds are flocking in one flight. Hen greys are nighttime women. A hen will approach any and all guys. I think she’s looking to see who has the biggest….er….crop capable of feeding her and their brood. Males, being what they are, are more than happy to feed her. At this time, I separate all of the males and put them in a flight with the hens. I keep them apart for at least two weeks.
When the separation is finished, I take one hen at a time and “paint” her with artist permanent ink. I practically pour the ink into my palm and smear it over her head, chest, back, and wings. Do not use washable materials. It produces a terrible mess, particularly if you don’t use red and it rains. Red resembles blood too closely, and you’ll end up frightening yourself when you see her later. Each hen is painted a distinct color before being reintroduced into the flock. I then pick one male and place him in the flight with rest of the hens. Usually, a couple is feeding each other before I even leave for my surveillance spot. I capture the couple and release them on their breeding flight. I capture another man and repeat the process. When it comes down to the final two or four birds, they may not be as compatible as the rest, but you and they don’t have a choice. I haven’t figured out who chooses; maybe the man just chooses his preferred hue. I presently have six or seven pairs that I want to re-flock since they were the last birds to couple from the several groups I’ve flocked. My breeding season begins in October and lasts until about May. I normally aim to have my pairings partnered up in late August or early September.
I feel, as do many aviculturists I’ve spoken with, that there is a minimum spacing between cages that is required for the birds’ well-being. Unfortunately, I did not plan on having this many birds, and I do not have the space. My cages are spaced about six to twelve inches apart. Around 1989, I began using complete partitions between all of the cages. The birds must not feel endangered by their neighbors and must feel safe. Partitions are installed around Labor Day and removed around Memorial Day. During the summer, they rest and build up, argue with their neighbors, and just relax.
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